The prolonged fuel scarcity compounded by hike in pump price has continued to take its toll on Nigerians from all walks of life such that many have since resigned to fate, as reported by Ibrahim Apekhade Yusuf.
The ghost of fuel crisis has reared its ugly head, as Nigerians have been compelled by circumstances beyond their control to buy the Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), popularly called fuel at exorbitant prices.
What better captures this anguish is the angst expressed by a motorist. “I don shege since this fuel palaver. The suffering don too much,” lamented Franklin Imaseun, in staccato English.
Imaseun, a commercial bus driver was literally ruing his fate in the wake of the fuel scarcity which has drained him both financially, physically and psychologically too.
According to him, in the past four weeks, the daily commute with his bus has been in fits and starts as he shuttles between fuel stations spending half the day in the long queues while awaiting his turn to fill his tank in readiness for his transport business.
Like Imaseun, many Nigerians have also suffered similar fate since the protracted fuel scarcity became pronounced some weeks ago.
But what really is responsible for the current cause of fuel scarcity across the country, you may be tempted to ask?
One plausible explanation is that the lack of adequate investment in the downstream sector has been fingered as the cause of the perennial fuel scarcity and its attendant long queues in filling stations across the country.
One those who share this sentiment is the Independent Petroleum Association of Nigeria (lPMAN) has attributed the current fuel scarcity to the unavailability of petroleum products and difficulty in accessing foreign exchange by marketers.
As a result the cost of foods, goods and services has skyrocketed beyond the means of the ordinary people. The burden of the fuel scarcity is saddled more by the poor, thereby increasing their suffering and their poverty level.
While lamenting the despicable conditions Nigerians are facing currently in their country and in the hands of those that swore to make their lives better, Alani Monsuru, observed that the country has no reason to suffer fuel scarcity if the government had fulfilled its election promises of revitalizing the refineries across the country.
“In 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011 to this 2023 general elections, the politicians are still promising to revitalise the refineries that are moribund. Why deceive the people, a fraction of what the politicians steal in an administration can build three refineries,” he lamented.
Echoing similar sentiments Babatunde Hakeem noted that the government could have solved the fuel scarcity and subsidy issues without making noise and punishing Nigerians if they had encouraged many investors in the downstream petroleum industry long ago.
For many, the Federal Government’s inaction over the issue, even as Nigerians suffer shows complacency and compromise with the fuel marketers, who always hold the government as ransom with subsidy payment.
He argued further that if one steals so much money from a public fund, he or she will not care if fuel is N1,000 per litre because he can buy as many litres as he wants.
For him, the Federal Government’s annoying silence on the issue is wickedness and man’s inhumanity to man, and that is why voters have to stand up this time to make better decisions or stand to buy fuel at N1000 per litre soon.
“Government said NNPC is now fully commercial, but there is no difference. The corruption and insincerity in the oil sector are so much that they will hunt back at the leaders at some point when Nigerians cannot bear it,” he concluded.
Businesses count losses
Many entrepreneurs and businesses are worst hit by the fuel scarcity; as they have to buy fuel at exorbitant prices or at black market to power their generators to keep their businesses afloat.
Madam Angela Usman who runs a mini-mart in Ikeja, lamented that the lingering fuel scarcity has made her spend a large chunk of his profit on buying fuel at the black market to stay in business since it started last year.
Meanwhile, other Nigerians blamed the current situation on the lack of accountability of president Buhari, stressing that the continued silence of the president who is the Petroleum Minister was a serious concern.
Checks by our correspondent revealed that only a few major marketers are selling fuel at the official pump price while other independent marketers sell at N250, N270, and N300 per liter depending on the petrol station.
This development has forced commercial bus drivers and transport companies to inflict the transportation cost to the detriment of the commuters.
Within the Lagos metropolis, commuters are forced to pay more in transport fares as commercial drivers increase transport costs by between 50 percent and 100 percent at peak periods.
Presently, a journey that used to cost a passenger between N200 and N250 per drop is now costing between N400 and N500 while a journey that used to cost a passenger between N100 and N150 is now costing the same passenger between N200 and N300 per drop.
“Today, I bought fuel at N300 per liter in a petrol station in the Ijegun area of Lagos suburban and I have to increase the transport fare to N400 per passenger from Ikotun to Cele Express in order to recover the money spent in buying fuel,” said a danfo driver, who simply identified himself as Banji.
Banji said he was forced to buy fuel at a an exorbitant price due to the long queue of vehicles at the other two nearby petrol stations that were selling at N250 per liter.
Aside intra state transportation, passengers embarking on interstate trips, especially from city centers such as Lagos and Abuja to their destinations in the hinterlands are also paying more due to the scarcity of fuel and high fuel pump prices.
A visit to the departure terminals of some of the popular interstate transporters shows that travellers, who hitherto paid between N16,500 to N18,500 per trip are now paying between N23,500 and N25, 000 on a one-way trip to parts of the East.
Samuel Ibiere, who runs a transportation fleet in Agege area of Lagos, hinted that in Lagos, fuel price is cheaper compared to the Eastern parts of the country. “As you go towards the Eastern part of Nigeria, it gets worse. The further you go from Lagos, the pump prices increase. Few days ago, I bought fuel in Owerri for N500 per litre, even then it was scarce,” he said.
“The turnaround time for us is also an issue. I travel the Lagos-Shagamu route about two or three times daily but in the last few days, I have only been able to do one trip daily because of the number or hours I spend at the fuel station.”
Seye Adenike who sells Tie-dye fabric materials said he buys the products from Sagamu and transports it to Lagos. She said the cost of transporting her products has doubled in the last two weeks, which will impact on the cost of the products.
Marketers trade blame
The Operations Controller of lPMAN, Mike Osatuyi, in a recent interview remarked that the lingering scarcity of petrol was due to the unavailability of the product.
He alleged that the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Ltd., had stopped importing enough petrol to meet demand in the country.
Mr Osatuyi was emphatic that marketers could no longer sell at the regulated price because the unsteady supply of petrol had resulted in higher prices at the depots.
“We are experiencing scarcity because the product is not available. “The Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Ltd., is the sole importer of refined petroleum products, which are not readily available to marketers,” he said.
Mr Osatuyi explained that his members bought petrol at over N200 per litre from private depots, making it impossible for them to sell at a regulated pump price.
“Besides, such a trend is unsustainable given the fact that private depots also sell the product at an unofficial rate different from that of NNPCL.
“When we add the cost of transportation and levies, it will run into N217 per litre. At what prices do you want marketers to sell, knowing fully well that we are in business to make profit?
“My members are groaning over the increase in cost of petrol from the depot and they suffer a lot to get it.
“If fuel is there, why will we not sell, but there is no fuel? Our members are selling petrol between N230 and N240 per litre at filling stations,” he added.
Mr Osatuyi said the government was finding it difficult to continue subsidising the price of petrol and advised that the downstream of the petroleum sector be fully deregulated as a permanent solution to the problem.
He urged the government to allow the private sector to import petrol as is the case with aviation fuel, diesel and kerosene.
He urged the government to remove the monopoly of importation and pronounce total deregulation of the downstream sector.
Collaborating with Mr Osatuyi’s views, a marketer, who preferred not to be mentioned, told NAN that NNPCL was having challenges importing refined products due to liquidity constraints.
According to the marketer, all marketers; IPMAN, Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN) and Depot and Petroleum Products Marketers Association of Nigeria (DAPPMAN) are struggling to get products from NNPCL, the sole supplier.
The marketers said the scarcity of foreign exchange also posed a serious challenge, and that the Direct Purchase and Direct Supply (DPDS) option had crashed.
“Nigeria has reached a stage where the government requested a credit facility from DSDP people on product supply but it was challenged due to a huge backlog of debts.
“The NNPCL partners who were given crude oil to supply refined products could not access credit from banks due to existing huge debts,” said the marketer.
According to him, the high rate of forex currently at N800 to a dollar also posed a serious challenge to importation.
He said, “Talking about Lagos, that is where most of the (PMS) vessels come. When the mother vessel comes into the state, its products will be distributed by daughter vessels to ports in Lagos, Warri, Port Harcourt, etc.
“These daughter vessels are hired by independent private tank farm owners or private depot owners, who pay vessel charges in dollars.
“Some of them source dollars in the open market. So, the dollar also determines the price of products.
“Now, you cannot expect them to sell PMS at N184/litre when the price of hiring a vessel has risen from 38,000 dollars to around 108,000 dollars to 111,000 dollars, depending on the type of vessel. These charges are paid in dollars.”
He added that the cost of chartering daughter vessels to move products from the mother vessel to the Private Depot Owners (PDOs) has jumped within months due to issues around the hike in diesel cost, foreign exchange concerns and other industry problems.
“The products are moved to PDOs in Port Harcourt, Warri, Calabar, Lagos, etc, and by the time NNPC gives depot allocations, it becomes their responsibility to charter vessels that will take the products from the mother vessel to the depots.